The Blind Youth Audio Project, initiated in 1995, is an annual workshop series run in conjunction with DSB's Youth Employment Solutions (YES) program. Blind and visually impaired students from across Washington state are housed at the University of Washington for 6 weeks while participating in job placement programs all around Seattle. As an extracurricular component to the program, students are invited to attend a series of 8 workshops (twice weekly for four weeks) at Jack Straw's studios. Students ages 9-13 take part in the Summer Camp for Independent Living, known as SCILS. Youth Employment Solution (YES) students work in two groups, ages 14-15 (YES 1) and 16 through high school graduation (YES 2).
Susie Kozawa in the studio with two YES 2 students
We started this year's program by writing and recording a song with the YES 1 students to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Musician Levi Fuller and writer Jesse Minkert collaborated on lyrics and Levi wrote the tune, then performed and recorded it with the students in Jack Straw's studio, along with teaching artist Bill Horist on guitar. Another group of students produced a flash drama PSA about the ADA written by Jesse Minkert.
Later that same night, YES 2 students participated in an African drumming workshop with Kofi Anang in studio 1 and recorded flash dramas in studio 2 with Susie Kozawa and Christine Brown.
Over the following weeks, YES 2 students worked with Jack Straw teaching artists to write and record more music and perform and record flash dramas in the Jack Straw studios. Musicians Bill Horist and Amy Denio collaborated with one group of students on writing and producing an original song, while writer Jesse Minkert and sound artist Susie Kozawa worked with another group to produce a series of flash dramas using their voices and sound effects they created in the studio.
For their day in the studio, the SCILS students produced flash dramas in studio 2 and participated in a tap dancing workshop with dancer Mark Mendonca, a current resident artist in the Jack Straw Artist Support Program, in studio 1.
YES 2 Students work on a song in Studio 1
African drumming workshop with Kofi Anang
YES 1 students recording the ADA flash drama with voice coach Christine Brown
YES 2 students gathering traffic sounds with Susie Kozawa
SCILS tap dance workshop with Mark Mendonca
The Blind Youth Audio Project 2015 was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center, in partnership with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, and the Washington State School for the Blind, with special thanks to the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, the Rodrigues Fund, the Washington State Arts Commission, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and individual contributors for their generous support.
Our production team included Jack Straw audio engineers Tom Stiles, CJ Lazenby, and Daniel Guenther; Production Interns Nathanael Sams and Alex Karbo, Writer and drama coach Jesse Minkert; Vocal coaches Christine Marie Brown and Andrew McGinn, Musicians Bill Horist and Amy Denio, African Drummer Kofi Anang, Tap dancer Mark Mendonca, Photographers Sherwin Eng and Nat Seymour, Musician and web designer Levi Fuller, and Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz.
Special thanks to Janet George, Kylie Clark, and Tyler Parker with the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind; Paul Baldwin, Lisa Hodge, Boni Moran, and Doug Trimble with the Washington State School for the Blind; Shelli Harris, Seattle Public Schools, Zack Small, Mount Vernon School District, and Jesse Minkert with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences. Also thanks to Sue Ammeter.
More on Jack Straw's programs for the visually impaired: